Security guard acquitted for assault but no compensation

THE Northern NSW Health Network has successfully defended its right to suspend a Tweed Hospital security guard over the alleged assault, of which he was later acquitted, of a mentally-ill patient.

Graeme David Heggie was suspended on full pay after nurses complained he had been verbally and physically abusive while subduing a patient in June 2009.

Soon after, Mr Heggie made a worker's compensation claim for the "psychological injury" he suffered as a result of being suspended for an offence of which he was eventually acquitted.

When the claim failed on the grounds the employer had taken "reasonable action", Mr Heggie took his fight to the Workers Compensation Commission.

Deputy President Kevin O'Grady found there were "deficiencies" in the conduct of the inquiry, including failure to consider events involving the same patient on the previous evening and the absence of evidence of reasons of the then general manager.

He also claimed the workers compensation arbitrator had failed to place enough weight on the "dire consequences" resulting from Mr Heggie's suspension including the loss of his security licence, a "blemish" on his record with the health service and a ban preventing his registration as a qualified nurse.

It was also pointed out Mr Heggie had been hit with hefty legal costs during a 22-month police prosecution which ended in his acquittal.

Mr O'Grady ruled it was wrong to find the health network's actions were reasonable and said Mr Heggie should be awarded weekly compensation and payment of his medical expenses.

The Court of Appeal heard the Deputy President was erroneous in point of law and the court should set aside the deputy president's orders.

The appeal was allowed and Mr Heggie was ordered to cover the health network's costs.

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